San Franciscans know they’ll see all walks of life along Market Street, but a new fixture on the colorful thoroughfare has shocked even the most hardened city dwellers: a 6-week-old, homeless baby girl.
All day long, Megan Doudney, 34, sits on the sidewalk near the Four Seasons Hotel between Third and Fourth streets with little Nedahlia in her arms and a sign reading, “Anything helps.” The sight is alarming, even in this city where just about anything goes.
Pedestrians walking past do double takes, exclaiming, “Oh my God!” or “She has a baby!” But they’re not on some hidden-camera show. This is very much real life.
Several people have called 911, including when another homeless person’s menacing dog got in the baby’s face. Police have responded numerous times, and child welfare workers from the Human Services Agency have investigated whether the baby should be removed from Doudney. At first blush, it seems obvious that’s the right answer, but so far, the city is throwing up its hands. Apparently, the newborn is healthy and developing well, and isn’t going anywhere.
“I’m not harming her in any way,” Doudney told me as we chatted on the sidewalk the other day.
She held the sleeping baby, who was wrapped in a fluffy blue blanket. She noted a medical checkup required by the child welfare workers a couple of weeks ago found the baby had low blood sugar but was otherwise fine. And what if the city did try to remove the baby?
“They’d have a fight on their hands — a serious, serious fight,” said Doudney, who sports short blue dreadlocks. “I love her. I wanted my entire life to be a mommy. Even when I was a little kid in school, they’d say, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ I always said, ‘A mommy.’”
Now she is one. But should she be? At least while she’s on the streets? Like everything about the city’s homeless problem, there is no easy answer.
Doudney and her baby have a private room at Hamilton Family Shelter, where they sleep every night and have access to three meals a day and parenting classes. The room is hers for three to six months, and she’s working with a case manager to figure out what comes next. Doudney receives $900 a month in Social Security benefits, and Hamilton sets aside 75 percent of that to save for her future.
Doudney said she needs more than the remaining $225 a month to afford diapers, formula, clothes and other necessities — and…